Friday, June 27, 2008

TO BE OR NOT TO BE

Photo of a photo of a photo.

One of the most universally known quotations would surely be the beginning of Hamlet's soliloquy:

- "To be, or not to be, that is the Question: Whether 'tis Nobler in the minde to suffer The Slings and Arrowes of outragious Fortune, Or to take Armes against a Sea of troubles, And by opposing end them: to dye,"

There seems to be two interpretations of these lines. The first is that the "To be" part means to live and accept the vicissitudes of life and all that it brings, the "Not to be" part means that by taking "Armes against a sea of troubles" is to commit suicide (because you can't win against the over whelming troubles of life). So we can either choose life with all that it entails or we can choose death.

The other interpretation is that we can choose a life of action rather than a life of silent acceptance. To many a life of silent acceptance is itself a death of sorts.

One point of view is that the sea of troubles is not necessarily something to always wage war against. Rather the "Sea of troubles" is the context in which our lives are shaped and the troubles are rather problems and issues which are addressed and solved in creative ways.

In Jungian psychological terms the process that deals with the 'sea of troubles' is the process of 'Individuation'. Individuation is an autonomous, inborn process, which does not require external stimulation for it to come into existence. To say that the process is inborn is to say that it is archetypal. The process moves the aspects of personality from a state of undifferentiated wholeness into a fully differentiated, balanced and unified personality. It is said that full and complete differentiation is rare and is only found in a Buddha or a Jesus type personality. The goal of the Individuation process is the wholeness of the individual - for the individual to be all that it is capable of being - fully formed, fully integrated and fully human in every sense.

The term differentiation means that each aspect of the human personality moves from the simple to the complex. As individuation takes place the aspects of the personality seek to express themselves in more complex, subtle and intricate ways.

The aspects of the human personality that become differentiated over the lifetime of the individual are the Psyche, Consciousness, Ego, Personal Unconscious and the Collective Unconscious.

Just as the body can become stunted and deformed because of bad diet and lack of exercise, so too can the development of the personality become distorted and twisted without the required experiences and education.

The way that an individual reacts to his or her genetic makeup, family relationships, education and upbringing in the earlier years and builds on with reflection and action in later years will determine to some degree the individuation process. The 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' is part of the matrix in which all this takes place. Many of the slings and arrows are general to the whole of humanity, many are particular to the individual.

Jung said that the call to life is the call to battle, but it is not a battle where you "take Armes against a sea of troubles" but rather the battle that is required to "suffer the slings and arrowes of outragious fortune". By suffering, acceptance and action we integrate the complexities, challenges, ironies and paradoxes of life into the tapestry of our own lives, thus continuing the process of individuation. It is the journey of a hero really, and every life lived with honesty and integrity is an heroic act. - and what is the reward for this battle?

There is a metaphor spoken by Jesus which for me sums up the process. Some may say I am taking the metaphor out of context but I am not so sure.

Jesus said, " It is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and planted in his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the wild birds, the birds of the field found shelter and roosted and nested in its branches".

The influence of Carl Gustav Jung for many has been enormous. His writings have been a big influence on my understanding of myself, other people and the world at large - my 'world view'.

The Jungian concept of Individuation is one from a huge body of his work which includes - Archetypes, Stages of Life, Symbols and Dreams, Synchronicity, and Personality Types. The Jung 'industry' is immense and there are numerous books. One book worth reading is his Autobiography "Memories, Dreams and Reflections".


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'll read Memories,Dreams and Reflections.You word well things I hardly know I know. You might be interested in Limitless Mind-by Russell Targ if you haven't already read it.

Alden Smith said...

Jungian concepts are well entrenched in our culture and often used and referred to without any consciousness of their beginnings. Terms such as Introvert, Extrovert and the other aspects of Personality Types, Synchronicity and Archetype are all Jungian terms.
The book 'Memories, Dreams and Reflections' is a good place to start. Jung's voluminous collected works are often available (interpreted into English) in most major libraries, but are sometimes difficult to read. I have found more contemporary explanations of some of his concepts easier to read and understand and happily there are many to choose from. Type in C.G.Jung at Amazon dot com and read some of the reviews of various books - I am going to that right now with your recommendation 'Limitless Mind' by Russell Targ ----- Thankyou.

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Anonymous said...

The asgard myth of imprisoning a hundred year old man in a white oak tree eating nothing but the fruit thereof and upon release being rejuvenated happened to me following a 30 year old dream .I was rejuvenated like a young man.I must agree with you the individuation process is a greater maturity coming to fruition...ultimately becoming a giver instead of taker which is our grater destiny....Graybeard